Ten years ago the OJAC renovated its historic 1877 jail building. Following the renovation, the Asian collection was installed in the two lower galleries with new interpretive materials and exhibition furniture. The upstairs was to be devoted to a series titled A Cell of One's Own initiated by Margaret Blagg, the director at that time. Since that first exhibit in the fall of 2008, which featured artist Denny Pickett, the now titled Cell Series has hosted 28 other shows in the series. With exception of only a couple of artists, all are from or have a close connection to Texas.
The Cell Series, along with other exhibitions, has garnered the OJAC a statewide reputation as one of the few art institutions that promotes contemporary Texas artists and their work. This is not unusual for the OJAC, as our co-founders Reilly Nail and Bill Bomar did the exact same in past OJAC exhibits as well as through their personal collection.
For many visitors to the museum, this series of exhibits may be their only exposure to vanguard art being created at this moment in history. The Cell Series presents a rare opportunity to encounter work that is attempting to interpret and translate the world we universally experience in creative and surprising ways.
I am reminded of a story that makes being part of a museum staff worth the many efforts. During a student art competition a few years ago, students were asked to created an artwork in response to the work of a Cell Series artist and submit a comment to accompany their piece. One student wrote a short statement that included the sentence, "I've never seen anything like that before." That simple statement succinctly sums up what many artists are attempting to do - create something never before seen. I sincerely hope that is what we all see in art and life.. to see and experience the "new" even though it can sometimes be challenging and unfamiliar. There is no guarantee in art or life that we will like the new things, but I am confident that if we are openminded, art will allow us to see something unique and many things new again.
Our audiences have enjoyed ten years of the Cell Series and can now help us welcome the 30th exhibit that will feature the work of Cam Schoepp this fall. Coincidentally, founder Reilly Nail was a friend and collector of Schoepp and his work beginning about 30 years ago. It only seems appropriate that his exhibit will help us celebrate this moment in the OJAC's continuing history of supporting and exhibiting Texas artists.
- Patrick Kelly
OJAC Executive Director
Banner Image: CAM SCHOEPP, paint/lift/line (installation detail), 2017, paint, chain and barrel, electric motor. Courtesy of the artist.